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Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers
Album: Salone
Label: M.I.G.
Tracks: 15

Bai Kamara may well be a new name to many of you - he was to me. That's inexcusable, given the superb quality of this CD. And so to the "bai-og": Bai Jr. is the son of the former Sierra Leonean ambassador in Brussels, who grew up in the UK and has lived in Brussels for over 25 years. With an already extensive discography under his belt, he's a deeply committed singer-songwriter with a wonderfully distinctive, warm voice who reveals his African origins in his music while filtering through a generous blend of blues, soul, R&B, funk and jazz influences. His latest album, Salone, is titled after the word for Sierra Leone in the Krio language, and marks a pivotal stage in Bai's career, where he enters a new era of artistic confidence as he finds the strength to delve into his specifically Sierra Leonean roots, here in the studio in the company of a handful of good friends. But that's where I get confused - the album credits clearly state "all instruments and vocals by Bai Kamara Jr" (except for bass on one track), so this begs the question, should I reasonably assume these friends to be the aforementioned Voodoo Sniffers? I don't think so, for the press release lists different personnel as being the members of Bai's four-piece band. Hmm…

Whatever, the end-product of Bai's self-styled "spiritual, joyful, refreshing and rewarding introspection" is a totally delicious CD, one which oozes the blues and drips soul - and it's also one of the finest I know in terms of recording quality, astoundingly clear and full of presence both in the vocal contributions and the precise, gently layered instrumentation. Tracks like Don't Worry About Me and Naked Girls On The Merry-Go-Round are an object lesson in arrangement and production, where the deep soulful vibe is so tight yet so laid-back. There are so many elements at play here: splashes of African percussion, funky bass lines, playful polyrhythms, spreckles of electric guitar, but everything is indelibly infused with the spirit of the blues. And with a spirit of real tension, a coiled spring that still manages to relax. As a singer, Bai can often recall the shaded expressiveness of Keb Mo, or Eric Bibb, or the softer side of Hendrix perhaps, but there I'm reaching for comparisons to get you hooked in and give Bai's music a spin. And his songwriting covers all the right bases with mature awareness and an acute stylishness, whether it's relationship issues (Cry Baby), longing or yearning (Some Kind Of Loving Tonight), sanguine reflection (The Rest Of Everything, Cold Cold Love), regret (Fortune, Riverboat Blues) or realisation (Can't Wait Here Too Long), or recounting taking on an intruder (Black Widow Spider), or a simple and long-awaited Homecoming.

The disc's well packaged too, with all the lyrics in the accompanying booklet. Trust me - you'll find Bai's music real tasty!

David Kidman